Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Embodied metaphors

Twitter has funny ways to trigger poetry. These days I am taking part in a workshop with Lynne Cameron, and yesterday I saw this in her timeline:
Hotel nationalities aside (Basque audiences are ultra-sensitive to this kind of ascriptions), her lovely observation made me think of a poem by Iñigo Astiz, which I translate here with the original version in Basque below:


I don’t know who, but someone
has calculated a time for me here.
After switching the light on
at the stairway I remain here to see
when they would have me out,
when I am expected elsewhere, maybe
with someone else, at least not here:
alone, still, quiet. Unbusy.
I have got an average presence
in this particular place in the world,
and today I have decided to exhaust
the time of my dubious existence,
not to leave any remains behind.
Who gets my seconds
when I am not? Do I get a replacement?
Again I switch on the light, still,
unable to guess what other moment
I will have to sacrifice for this one,
in what other place they have thought me,
what other life they have dreamed for me.

This provides an interesting contrast with Lynne’s twit. In her embodied metaphor, the narrator’s presence ignites the light (by means of some infrared device, I guess) once the necessary quantum leap of trust is performed. The light remains on as long as the narrator stays in the place. On the other hand, Iñigo’s poem describes a less hospitable situation: the light will stay on for a limited amount of time, after which the narrator has to turn it on again, pushing again the limits of his time. Trust is replaced by a moderate amount of anxiety, launching a meditation about time and place (and limits, or mortality, but this might be just me, having just watched Never Let Me Go, the film based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s remarkable novel).


Ez dakit nor den, baina norbaitek
denbora bat kalkulatu dit hemen.
Eskaileretako argiari sakatu eta
bertan gelditu naiz ikustera
noiz suposatzen nauten kanpoan,
noiz behar nukeen beste inon, agian
beste inorekin, edo behintzat ez hemen:
bakarrik, geldi, isilik. Ezertan ez.
Bataz besteko presentzia bat dut
munduaren leku zehatz honetan,
eta nire ausazko existentziaren
denbora agortzea erabaki dut gaur,
beste inori eszedenterik utzi gabe.
Norentzat dira nire segundoak
ni ez nagoenean? Ordezkatzen al naute?
Bigarrenez sakatu diot argiari, geldi,
ezin asmatuz zer beste unerengatik
sakrifikatu behar nukeen une hau,
zer beste lekutan pentsatu nauten,
eta zer beste bizitza amestu didaten.

Iñigo Astiz
Baita hondakinak ere (Susa, 2012)

"What is this place?"
Painting by Lynne Cameron

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